What does working on ones own salvation mean from a non-Catholic Christian perspective?

I was wondering, what does this mean, as said by a non-Catholic Christian “It is biblical to work on ones own salvation before trying to help to save others”?
What does working on ones own salvation mean from a non-Catholic Christian perspective?

Thank you for your responses :slight_smile:

Curious. Who said that?


It would depend on what sort of non-Catholic Christian said this. In fact, it would depend on your definition of “Christian.” A Baptist saying this could mean something different from a Presbyterian from a Lutheran from a Mormon (depending on if you consider them Christians).

If you are talking about Protestants, however, they would go to the Scriptures and see what the Bible says.

In Philippians 2:12-13 is written,

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Notice that we don’t “work on” but we “work out” our salvation. It is God who must be at work in us “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” In short, God works on us, and we work out the impacts of his grace and work in our lives.

Once again, it’s impossible to give specific “Protestant interpretation” to this text without knowing denominational affiliation, but we can speak in broad terms.

Broadly speaking, this verse displays the tension between the instantaneous and the progressive. It’s the tension between the subjective and the objective. It’s the tension between faith and work. This is a tension that runs throughout the Christian life. To work out one’s salvation is to be conformed into the image of Christ, as the potter molds the clay. It’s about brokenness. It’s about being emptied so that you can be filled.

In Philippians 1:27-30, Paul writes:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

We are to live a “worthy” life according to the gospel. We are to stand firm and strive for the faith with other believers. And we must not only believe in Christ but suffer for his sake because we are engaged in spiritual battle.

That being said, I don’t agree with the statement that we have to work on our own salvation before we help others come to the saving gospel. We are never going to be “perfect Christians.” Waiting to get everything together before you help spread the good news is an excuse for perpetual procrastination.

I am not quite sure. First of all, in what sense could it be “biblical”? Did the prophets put their own affairs in order before prophesying?

There may be something in the idea of building your own faith and familiarizing yourself with the Scripture and Catechism before trying to save or convert others. Otherwise someone who is misinformed, even though he has the best intentions, may pass on misinformation and cause more harm than good.

I would first ask where that is in the Bible. (Hint: it’s not).

Second, I would say that the commandment is to love God and love neighbor. Love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love God? By loving your neighbor as yourself. How do you love your neighbor? Love is willing the good of another. To will the highest good of another is to desire nothing short of God for them, for God is the highest good. Show God to others in loving them, and you will have loved God and neighbor. It’s not an either/or proposition, and you don’t love God first and then love your neighbor. You love God through your neighbor, by showing forth the life of God to them through your love, which itself is a cooperation in the love of God. In this way, you work toward your salvation and the salvation of everyone you meet. It is not sequential, it is not a choice of one and then the other. It is how you must live at all times.

“Acquire the spirit of peace, and thousands around you will be saved.” -St. Seraphim of Sarov.


Excellent! Well done.

A friend of mine, I believe she’s Protestant. There aren’t that many denominations in Indonesia I think, the main groups are Protestant, Pentecostal, and 7th Day Adventist.

Thank you for your response Itwin.
As a follow up question, does it mean that the statement (“one must work on ones own salvation before helping to save others”) is actually not biblical, from a Protestant perspective? Or is it still possible, depending on my friend’s denomination?

The impression that I got from my friend is that it is stated in the bible. Though I should probably ask if that is what she meant. I’ll do that and update the thread with what I find out.
Thanks Beryllos!

Thank you for pointing this out edward_george. I’m not sure if I will have any further discussion about this with my friend, but I’ll be sure to keep these in mind if it does come up!

God bless you :slight_smile:

On a side note, I just noticed that the title of the thread got edited! Thank you moderators :thumbsup:

We need to separate the statement. The first part of your friend’s statement, “one must work on ones own salvation” is a paraphrase of 1 Philippians 2:12-13. This is biblical.

The second part of your friend’s statement, “before helping to save others” is just her pious opinion.

I assume the latter part of the statement is an attempt to avoid discrediting the gospel by discouraging new converts or spiritually undisciplined persons from engaging in situations of evangelism, whether personal or corporate.

I can see where it would be appropriate to encourage people to get a solid biblical and spiritual foundation before they began any serious evangelistic activity. There is nothing worse than a hypocrite trying to “save” other people. But I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying what your friend said.

The simple fact is that when Paul wrote “work out your own salvation,” he had in mind a long term process. In evangelical Protestant language, anyone who is saved is by definition working out their salvation.

interesting thread-- most people delete the full scripture and do not address that it is God the Holy Spirit that is doing the works thru the person-

which results in Good works as directed by God for the witness of Jesus – which demonstrate we are proving we have faith with works–

which St James talks about-- which can be confused with “religious -ceremony works” or and with-- the controversy of faith w/o works is dead -

because we should be demonstrating we really have abandoned our way and will and accepted, the will “cross” that God has made for us – the laying down your life

any way this is the “commentary” i find to be true

proverbs 23;23 find the truth and sell it not

Thank you for the further explanation ltwin! :thumbsup:
I feel curious to follow up with my friend regarding the comment and hear her explanation of it. If that does happen, I’ll be sure to update the thread.

God bless you!

Hi 1taxman, thank you for your input!
My question wasn’t really about works, as in the whole works and faith/faith alone discussion. I was curious about 2 things, which pertain to my friend’s comment; i.e. 1) what did it mean when my friend said “It is biblical to work on ones own salvation before trying to help save others” and 2) what does it mean from a non-Catholic Christian perspective to work on ones own salvation. Basically I’m trying to understand her comment and trying to see it from a Protestant point of view,

Just want to clarify that Philippians 2:12-13 says to work ‘out’ ones salvation. Not work ‘on’ ones salvation. As the poster above stated very well, there is a big difference between the two words.

I already said that in my first post on this thread.

My point in my last comment was that the OP’s friend is “paraphrasing” Philippians 2.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.